Those looking for a good time at the movies during Halloween, or any other season, will almost certainly come up against a zombie or two eventually. If you want to settle in front of the television or other choice of look-at device, you don't want to waste your time on lackluster living dead. Or living who have been entombed within the lifeless control of another. Go for the best. Go for these essential zombie movies.
I Walked with a Zombie
For much of the time that Hollywood produced movies about zombies, they were not reanimated corpses with a hunger for brains. Hollywood zombies were based on the Haitian voodoo reality of belief in the capacity of a witch doctor to transform a living soul into a zombie. "I Walked with a Zombie" treads precariously along the fine edge separating science and religion to present a portrait of a woman who may have been turned into a zombie or may merely be the victim of an attempt to protect family unit at all cost.
Dawn of the Dead
"Night of the Living Dead" was not the first movie to turn zombies from living people under the spell of voodoo into dead brought back to life with that craving for flesh, but it set the standard for the wholesale transformation of what it means to be a zombie in the movies. The original version of "Dawn of the Dead" is more essential because it can be enjoyed purely on the level of a sequel to "Night of the Living Dead' or it can be enjoyed on a more political and philosophical level as an indictment of consumerism.
Zombies seem to be perfectly suited to the rise of the found footage film. After all, most zombie movies focus on a protagonist of exceeding ordinariness. Put a video camera into the hand of an average person and let loose the terror. "[Rec]" is not just the best found footage movie to date, it is also an essential zombie movie. Essential for two reasons: 1) it does represent the height thus far of the matching up of zombie movies and found footage movies and 2) it is the scariest zombie movie ever.
28 Weeks Later
The general consensus seems to be that Danny Boyle's original is better. I'm a huge fan of Danny Boyle, but I must take a contrarian view. (Big surprise to my regular readers, right?) "28 Weeks Later" is more essential than its precursor for the same reason that "Dawn of the Dead" is more essential than "Night of the Living Dead." On top of the sheer horror of "28 Weeks Later" is poured a layer of pointed political barbs aimed at the Bush administration's idea that America should be used as an occupying force for order within the borders of foreign countries. If that isn't enough for you, then there's always the fact that the opening scene of "28 Weeks Later" is the best beginning of a zombie movie just like the last ten minutes of "[Rec]" provide the best ending to a zombie movie ever.
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